Our Son

written by

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Quarter to three: I wake again at the hour of his birth

Thirty years ago and now he paces corridors of dark

In nightmares of self-condemnation where random thoughts

Besiege his fevered imagination – England’s

Imminent destruction, his own, the world’s…

Sixty to eighty cigarettes a day, unavailing depot injections,

Failed abscondings, failed everything: Eton and Balliol

Hold no sway on ward one, nor even being

‘A six language master,’ on PICU madness is the only qualification.

There was the ‘shaving incident’ at school, which

Made him ready to walk out at fifteen, the alcohol

Defences at Oxford which shut us out then petered out

During the six years in India, studying Bengali at Shantiniketan.

He tottered from the plane, penniless and unshaven,

To hide away in the seediest bedsit Beeston could boast

Where night turned to day and vaguely he applied

For jobs as clerk and court usher and drank in pubs with yobs.

When the crisis came – "I feel my head coming off my body’ –

I was ready and unready, making the necessary calls

To get a bed, to keep him on the ward, to visit and reassure

Us both that some way out could be found.

The ‘Care Home’ was the next disaster, trying to cure

Schizophrenia with sticking plaster: "We don’t want

Carers’ input, we call patients ‘residents’ and insist on chores

Not medication", then the letters of terrible abuse, the finding of a flat,

‘The discharge into the community.’

His ‘keyworker’ was the keyworker from hell: the more

Isaiah’s care fell apart the more she encouraged

Him to blame us and ‘Make his life his own’, vital signs

Of decline ignored or consigned to files, ‘confidentiality’ reigned supreme.

Insidiously the way back to the ward unveiled

Over painful months, the self-neglect, the inappropriate remarks

In pubs, the neglected perforated eardrum, keeping

Company with his feckless cousins between their bouts in prison.

The pointless team meetings he was patted through,

My abrupt dismissal as carer at the keyworker’s instigation,

The admission we knew nothing of, the abscondings we were told of

And had to sort out, then the phone call from the ASW.

"We are about to section your son for six months, have you

Any comment?" Then the final absconding to London

From a fifteen minute break on PICU, to face his brother’s

Drunken abuse, the police were kindness itself as they drove him to the secure unit.

Two nurses came by taxi from Leeds the next day to collect him

The Newsam Centre’s like a hotel – Informality and first class treatment

Behind the locked doors he freezes before and whispers

"Daddy, I was damned in hell but now I am God’s friend."

Note: PICU- Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit

Beeston- An inner city area of Leeds

ASW- Approved Social Worker

© Barry Tebb